Answered By: Lynn VanLeer
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017     Views: 6192

A primary source is any material where the author presents his or her own research, theory, ideas, or experience.

Some primary sources include:

  • a research article outlining the methodology and results of the authors' research

  • the US Census

  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau

A secondary source is material that analyzes and discusses a primary source. For example:

  • a literature review article in a peer-reviewed journal

  • a newspaper article discussing census statistics

  • a book about Freud's theories written by a psychology researcher

  • an encyclopedia article about Henry David Thoreau

An article abstract will usually provide enough information to determine if the article is primary or secondary. Look for any indication that the authors conducted their own research or are presenting their own experiences.
 

Example of an abstract from a primary source with language indicating article type:

Abstract with the following phrases circled: "We examined ruminative thought." "Results yielded strong support for our predictions."


Example of an abstract from a secondary source with language indicating article type:

Abstract with the following text circled: "This article primarily designed to provide a cultural analysis of the literature."

NOTE: Some primary sources will include secondary source material, such as the literature review portion of a research article.
 

Video: Identify Primary and Secondary Sources

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(2 min 42 sec) Transcript

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